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Few teams are successful without an outstanding goaltender. The Los Angeles Kings have been no exception in the early going this season.
Los Angeles (8-13-4) looks to win consecutive games for the first time since the opening week of the season when it hosts the slumping New Jersey Devils (12-9-1) on Monday night.
The Kings signed Dan Cloutier to a two-year, $6.2 million contract over the summer and hoped he would provide stability as the No. 1 goalie. Cloutier, though, has struggled to a 4-8-2 record and a 3.67 goals-against average, the worst GAA in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.
Mathieu Garon has been the better of the team's netminders, allowing two goals or fewer in six of his 11 starts with a 2.72 GAA.
Garon stopped 22 shots and Alexander Frolov scored the go-ahead goal in the second period Saturday, leading the Kings to a 3-1 victory over visiting Calgary.
"I don't know about that," Garon said when asked if he deserved to be the team's top goaltender. "As I said at the start of the season, we have two good goalies here and whoever is playing the best is going to play. That's always the case."
The Kings have followed each of their past five wins with a loss, failing to win two in a row since beating St. Louis and the New York Islanders on Oct. 7 and 10.
"We can't just say that we're doing our best, that's not good enough right now," captain Mattias Norstrom said. "There is no more waiting period. All the teams around us, in our conference and in our division, are pulling away."
Frolov continued his hot streak with his team-leading 14th goal, his 11th in the last 12 games. He had only one goal in the 10 games before his current surge.
Frolov is one of three young players the Kings are relying on to provide the bulk of the team's offense. Frolov, 24, leads the team with 24 points, while 19-year-old Anze Kopitar is second with 22 and Michael Cammalleri, 24, has 21 points.
New Jersey will finish a five-game road trip Monday looking to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss.
There's no doubting who the Devils' No. 1 goaltender is, but even Martin Brodeur needs some offensive support. New Jersey began the trip with a 2-1 victory in Toronto, but has scored three total goals in defeats to Phoenix, Anaheim and San Jose.
Joe Thornton picked off Scott Gomez's pass and turned it into the game's first goal midway through the third period Saturday, lifting the Sharks to a 2-0 victory over the Devils.
"You can't turn the puck over to the best player in the league and that's what I did," Gomez said. "I have got to make that play."
Brodeur turned aside 25 of 26 shots Saturday, allowing two goals or fewer for the ninth time in his last 13 starts.
The power play hasn't provided much offense lately for the Devils, who are 1-for-19 with a manpower advantage on the trip.
New Jersey has three wins and an overtime loss in its last four visits to Los Angeles. Brodeur is 4-2-0 with a 1.65 GAA in six road starts against the Kings.
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